Mormon Church, a US religious group which forbids the use of
caffeine, is generally regarded as eccentric. But because nearly
everybody takes it, the total effect of caffeine on the way the
world has evolved is huge. Caffeine is the drug that changes the
That is the argument of the "World of Caffeine " ,
a history of the drug by scientists Bennett Weinberg and Bonnie
Bealer. Both tea and coffee were introduced to the West around 300
years ago. (The effect of these new drinks was felt immediately.
In London, cof fee house were filled with people making plans;
talking business and doing deals. The coffee houses themselves
later developed into London is financial centre. And the deals
done in the coffee houses were partly respon sible for a rapid
increase in British trade. History was moving in that direction
anyway. But the arrival of coffee speeded everything up.
Weinberg and Bealer back up their claims with scientific research
which shows that frequent use of caffeine causes people to grow
new brain cells. They also point to research which shows that
people with caffeine in their system perform a range of tasks
better than those without it. Without caffeine, would the human
race come so far and so fast?
The Japanese tea
ceremony might be an example of what anthropologists call "
ceremonial chemistry ".This is a practice amongst ancient and
primitive peoples of taking mind altering drugs as part of
Tea has around 50%
less caffeine in it than coffee, and there are real differences
between tea and coffee drinking cultures. In Britain, the only
European tea drinking culture, workers have been known to go on
strike to demand a ten-minute tea break in the working
day. Tea gives people enough caffeine to help put up with a boring
job or help them recover after a hard day. It is something to
share with friends. You build relationships over a cup of tea.
you get results with coffee. Coffee gives you that extra dose of
caffeine. It is associated with staying up all night to finish a
business plan or study for exams. When Starbucks opened their
first coffee shops in China they got a lot of publicity. Much of
this was because another fashionable foreign business had come to
China. But maybe it was also a symbol that coffee culture had
arrived. From now on, everything was going to get faster. It is
worth thinking about. But don't think too long. There is much work
to be done. Drink up and get busy.